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Notable Oregonians: Jane Powell - Actress, Singer

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Jane Powell

Jane Powell, 1929-- (Photo: MGM)

Jane Powell was born Suzanne Burce in Portland, Oregon on April 1, 1929. She began her singing career on local KOIN radio at the age of seven. The Burce family moved to Los Angeles in the early 1940s and Powell landed a part on the radio show, "Hollywood Showcase." She sang an aria from "Carmen," and impressed the audience. As a result, she was booked on the Charlie McCarthy radio show and offered an MGM contract. Powell shot to fame on the silver screen in leading roles in MGM. Able to act, sing and dance well, she found enormous success in the movies. Powell proved equally adept as a young ingenue in A Date with Judy and as a mature bride in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. However, she was often typecast as a starry-eyed teenager.

 

Arguably her greatest movie success came in 1954 with the release of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. The film cast Jane Powell as the headstrong Milly, opposite Howard Keel, with whom she also paired for several road shows.

 

Frustrated at the limitations her MGM contract placed on her career, Powell later left the studio to freelance. She appeared in a number of additional movies, none of which met with great success. She was more successful in stage productions, including Oklahoma, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Carousel, Meet Me in St. Louis and My Fair Lady. She has also recorded albums, worked nightclubs and television guest spots, and appeared in a number of television productions.

 

In 2000, Powell performed in the television movie The Sandy Bottom Orchestra. She received strong reviews for her work in the Stephen Sondheim musical, "Bounce" in 2004. She performed with the Portland-based band Pink Martini in 2007, 2008 and 2010.

 

(Sources: Turner Classic Movies | rottentomatoes.com) Revised 1/2013

 

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